November is just around the corner and after four years of participating in National Novel Writing Month, even the change in weather has my nerves buzzing with anticipation, like my internal editor is well-prepared for her yearly vacation. In my excitement, I can’t help asking every writer I know if he or she is participating. Misery loves company. 😉 I’m getting a lot of mixed responses–some are die hards like me who are raring to go, some are participating but aren’t sure if they can do it, while others think it’s just crazy and don’t feel they could get anything out of it. For every one of them, I have one piece of advice: you’ve got to take NaNoWriMo for what it is.
Chris Baty, the founder of NaNoWriMo, says what you write in November should be looked at as “Draft Zero,” and as someone who has completed the challenge four times and turned two of those into full novels, I completely agree. Here’s what I mean…
Which Glasses Are You Wearing?
There are three general ways people look at writing 50,000 words in a month:
- NaNoWriMo is the ticket to publication. Well…it might be the first step to publication but there will be a lot of work to be done once the month is over, so don’t plan on submitting your first draft to the Amazon Breakthrough Novel competition. Writing so quickly doesn’t leave any time for editing so there will be enough typos to make your English teacher blush. It will be choppy. There will be holes where you don’t have time to research details. In short, know that NaNo only gets your feet wet.
- What’s the point in writing a bunch of trash? Let me tell you a little secret about how I write–I throw A LOT away. Sometimes an entire draft. It doesn’t mean all that writing was meaningless. I can brainstorm and plot and outline with the best of them but I don’t truly know my characters until I just start writing. NaNo is about getting out of my head and getting into the story. I don’t see any waste in that.
- There is no other event that brings writers of all types from all over the world together working toward the same incredible goal. There is no better way to set your critical mind aside. There is no better way to create a daily writing habit. There is no better way to set a challenge and prove to yourself that you can do whatever you set your mind to.
So what does Draft Zero mean? It means you might not use everything you write but you might just find some incredible lines, paragraphs and characters you never would have discovered inside yourself if you hadn’t let your walls down. Most importantly, it means you will certainly know your story better than you ever thought you could–what’s working, what isn’t, what needs to be added, changed, cut. And then you’re prepared to write a real first draft that, with hard work, will be structurally sound. It seems like a lot of work but we all do this same process in different ways. NaNo simply speeds it up, and in a lot of cases, pushes people past all the internal obstacles that are holding them back.
Don’t Be Afraid to Write
I’m not saying everyone has to do National Novel Writing Month, or even should. Everyone has their own way of writing. What I’m saying is, don’t make excuses to not write. You don’t have to write 50,000 words in November but you do have to write. Stop looking at the word count goal as all or nothing. If you sign up for NaNo, just write every day. See where it goes. See where the excitement and community leads you. Writing only 25,000 words isn’t a failure. Compare that to how many words you’ve written this month.
But truth be told, NaNoWriMo isn’t really about the word count goal at all. It’s about letting go of all worries of what may or may not be. It’s about free falling into your creative mind. It’s about discovering the beauty in your story, your words, your writing.
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